It's hard to believe that this 2011 open-water swimming season is already more than a month old, and that another major holiday weekend -- the Fourth of July -- has come and gone since the season "officially" opened Memorial Day Weekend! It seems like only yesterday since – after the winter’s long, chlorinated confinement – I first tentatively edged myself into the still-chilly water of West Neck Beach, fully encased in a long-sleeved wetsuit, and struggled to make my way as far as the yellow sign, let alone the Sailboat (which I finally reached for the first time several weeks ago – broken ribs now well-healed, thank you very much!). The intervening First Annual Huntington-Cold Spring Harbor 1 & 2 Mile Swim at West Neck Beach, which took place on Sunday, June 26th, is undoubtedly responsible for much of this sense of being caught in an accelerated time-warp, as I and many of the other West Neck Pod members were busily engaged in helping to plan the event, which consumed much of our time and energy for the last several weeks and months. Those efforts paid off with a wonderfully successful first-time event in which 181 swimmers participated, and which introduced dozens of newcomers to the Cold Spring Harbor/West Neck Beach venue and to the Pod of open-water swimmers that habitually plies its waters! Many of the competitors came back to swim with us this Fourth of July weekend, some more than once, and the Pod is now enhanced by new members Sharon and Jason and David and Karen and Cristina and others whose names I didn’t get...
Jennifer Rocke, a marathon swimmer from Colorado who was on Long Island to visit relatives and found us on the internet through"The Water-Blog," swam with us Friday morning and again on the 4th of July, partaking in a casual "Sailboat chat" with the rest of the Pod before heading back to start her journey home (with a new, bright yellow "To the Sailboat and Beyond -- West Neck Pod" swim cap in her bag!). Jennifer, who swam the English Channel in a relay, and is training for a relay swim across Lake Tahoe ("only 11 miles"!), says she’ll be back next year – when she plans to swim in the Second Annual Huntington-Cold Spring Harbor swim!
Bob Miller’s Huntington Tri-Masters Swimmers also joined us on Saturday for their first open-water swim of the season, and will be back next Saturday morning for another stint in the Salt.
More and more newcomers – experienced open-water swimmers as well as "newbies" – have recently been seeking out opportunities to swim in the group open-water environment offered by the West Neck Pod, and more and more open-water prodigals have been returning to the Salt (Sal Romanello and Lynn Perzetsty, to name a few!). The Pod itself has grown from a handful of swimmers a few years ago to a cohesive community of several dozen swimmers (with an e-mail list of more than 80 names) – and this extraordinary growth coincides with an explosion of interest in open-water swimming in the larger athletic community. Joye Brown and I, who were fortunate to be able to attend portions of the 2011 Global Open Water Swimming Conference in NYC in June, met scores of open-water swimmers from around the world who are passionate about open-water swimming and about sharing their passion – and their knowledge – with others. (Read more about the conference on Steven Munatones’ blog, http://dailynewsofopenwaterswimming.com/.) More and more people are taking to the open water – and falling in love with it, as I did so many years ago, and do again every time I swim!
I envision that by the time the next major holiday weekend rolls around (Labor Day weekend), the swimmers of the West Neck Pod will be as thick as moon jellies in the harbor – and that when we set out on our group swims, we’ll hear what Carole Wickham described when she lifeguarded for the June 26th 1 & 2 Mile Swim: "As the largest wave of swimmers approached, I heard a sound that was like a flock of swans flying low over the water, beating the surface with their wings...I could hear the swimmers coming before I could see them...It was an amazing sound....
Hope you all had a wonderful and safe 4th of July weekend....See you in the Salt!
(Follow this link for more pictures of the 4th of July Weekend at West Neck Beach: https://picasaweb.google.com/101213847005616295077/FourthOfJulyWeekend2011?authuser=0&feat=directlink)
DISCLAIMER: Open-water swimming is inherently dangerous. Open-water swimmers risk drowning, hypothermia, hyperthermia, heart attacks, panic attacks, cramping, jelly fish stings, fish bites, boat or jet-ski collisions, collisions with floating or submerged objects (including other swimmers), and other calamities that can be injurious, disabling or fatal! The "West Neck Pod" is an informal association of open-water swimmers who swim "outside the lines" with no lifeguard protection, it has no formal membership, organizational structure or legal identity, and its participants, including the author of this blog, make no representations and assume no liability with respect to its group open-water swims. All swimmers who participate in West Neck Pod group open-water swims do so at their own risk. Be careful out there!